Monday, March 28, 2016

Week 13 of 2016 - Accidents and the Lessons Learned

In 1975, Gary, my kid's Dad and I had a 1972 Green Lemans 2 door coupe. It was by far my favorite car that we ever owned...It looked just like the one pictured below. Ok, so I am a girl...a woman and I know nothing about car engines but I can tell you that this one had a lot of “get up and go” and I suppose I thought I was pretty hot stuff cruising town in it. It had a green vinyl landau roof. 
By Crwpitman - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Gary worked for his Father, Howard and Uncle, Harold at Tietz's Family Restaurant in Imlay City. We only had one car so if I needed to go some where during the day, he would come home after the morning breakfast rush and we would load up the kids and I would take him back to work.

Gary's Uncle and Aunt, Harold and Mary, had two boys; Roy was 2 years older and Jason was 2 years younger than our son, Shawn. All the boys were very close pals when they were growing up and Mary and I were close friends too. I would baby sit for her kids and she would babysit for mine. I can not remember what Mary was doing for the day but I was watching all the boys. I piled all the kids in the car and off we went. Jason was strapped into his car seat, he was a one year old. Shawn would stand on the hump and Roy would stand on the passengers side in the back seat. (I cringe when I think of this today) I was just making a quick trip to my Dad's store one mile away and then to the restaurant a mile further down the road before returning home so the boys could play.

Dad's store was a challenge with three boys. He had the bulk candy counter which the kids could  easily slip into.  You could not see them unless you went behind the counter to look for them.  It did not take them long to figure out how they could fill their little faces of 10 different kinds of candy at once.  If I turned my back on them for a second, they made a beeline to the candy counter. We had to work really hard to keep them away from that area of the store. And if that was not bad enough, he also had the usual full rack of candy bars conveniently located at the front of the store next to the cash registers. Since it was a Ben Franklin Store, he had toys too!

Every trip to the store started out with “Mom, can we have.....” the moment we walked into the door. Dad and I had a routine. If it was OK with me, he would offer the kids some candy but he always asked me first.  We had this little eye trick we would do. He would look at me, if I nodded yes, then he offered. If for some reason, we did not make eye contact he would say, Jan, “Have the kids been good today?” If I said no, then there would be no candy.  After a 20 or 30 minute visit with Grandpa, we piled back into the car with a small bag of candy in hand for a trip to the restaurant.

When we got there, I would park on the west side of the restaurant. The boys could not get out of the car fast enough! We would go in the back service entry and I would be yelling at them the whole length of the hall, “OK boys, no running!” It was the same routine every time we went. They would be laughing and the employees always knew we had arrived. They would be dodging kids. The kids  had their favorite food. They loved pickles the best. They would get them off the prep table by the handfuls. Next was french fries, of course.... and then they would go just outside of the kitchen to the soda fountain for pop. Their OWN pop with ice and a straw!

The employees always greeted us warmly. I often wondered why because for the next 30 minutes or so chaos would ensue in the kitchen. As they did their prep work for the next meal rush, they knew they would be dodging kids playing in the kitchen. I usually pulled up a stool in the corner to watch the activity and often Uncle Harold would join me. In those days, I smoked and so did Harold so it was a good excuse for a break. Their Dad did a pretty good job of trying to keep them in line. After about 30 minutes, he would give me the “look” and I knew it was time to leave.

We piled back into the car, Jason in his car seat and Shawn and Roy at their positions in the back seat, with paper cups full of pop and ice. I was just going 2 mile to get home so I did not put on my seat belt or Roy and Shawn's. I negotiate a left onto old M-21 driving a ¼ mile west to Almont Ave where I put my blinker on and stopped to waited for the traffic coming towards me to clear so I could turn left. I probably had the radio blaring. I never looked in my rear view mirror again. I did not see it coming....

There were three cars coming towards us in the east bound lanes, when a full size pickup truck traveling at the speed limit rear ended me. Everything went into slow motion. I could see my son's pop and ice as it flew out of the cup and drenched the inside of the car. I am hanging onto the steering wheel and standing on the brake pedal when I see the first eastbound car go by me on my right. We are spinning and suddenly I am looking eastbound back at the restaurant which I had just left with a second car about ready to hit me from behind. The driver of the second car did a great job of avoiding us by entering Almont Ave. As we continued to spin, I see that Roy has hit the back of the front seat so hard that the back of the seat collapsed forward sending him tumbling like a rag doll onto the floor of the front seat under the glove box with my son Shawn following right behind him. My chest was driven into the steering column which collapses and my knees are smashed hard on the dash. I looked up and see the third cars as the driver reacts in time and narrowly miss us. We come to a stop in the east bound lane headed westbound. I am in shock. I had never been in an accident before and I think...this was a bad one!

The kids start to try to untangle them selves from one another. I ask them if they are all right...They say they think so. They remain pretty calm and are not crying. I look in the back seat at Jason who is safely in his child safety seat. Aside from the fact that he has shattered glass from the back window all over him, he has not moved at all. Snug as a bug and even smiles at me as if to say, “that was fun, can we do it again?” I try to open my door and it won't open, so I sit there not sure what to do next. One of the drivers of the eastbound cars come to ask me if we are OK. I tell him I think that we are. Before I knew it the police are there and my husband. News travels fast in a small town.

He looked at me in the window and said “ Did you have your blinker on?” At first I think, is that what he said? I looked at him in almost disbelief...Really, is that your first thought? “Did I have my blinker on?” What about “are you and the kids alright, is anyone hurt?” I glared at him and said “Yes, of course I did!”

Once the fire department got there, they were able to get us out of the car. None of us was hurt other than a few bruises and a couple of personal disappointments! .... My favorite car, which we had only owned for six months, was totaled. God was watching over us that day!

From that day forward, I have faithfully used my seat belt, all children are buckled in before the car moves and all adults are strongly encouraged no matter how short or long the trip is. I learned that in moments of extreme stress, people's words and actions are not always what you think they should be. While I know that I can not control other, I made a “mental note to self” that day so that when I am on the other side of this coin, I chose my responses carefully so as not to hurt someone with a careless response. I also learned that a car (even your favorite) is just that...a car and can always be replaced. I can not imagine how I would have felt if Shawn or Roy had been ejected from that car and they easily could have and they would have been killed and my life would have forever been changed.

Please remember to always buckle up!


Friday, March 25, 2016

Week 12 of 2016 - Easter Sewing and How It All Began...

After reading how the Smith sister's sewing skills developed....via sister Jan wanting an expensive dress from Mitzelfeld's Department Store in Rochester, Michigan, I need to expand on that theme. Being the oldest, I was sewing first...even received a red cast iron sewing machine...child size...for Christmas one year.  Enjoying embroidery (initially taught by Grandma Smith), knitting (learned in fourth grade in Mrs. Liggett's room...another blog another time!) and anything artsy...I guess sewing was a natural progression when we saw Mom creating some of our clothes as we grew up.

In our Easter Finery, 1960, made by Mom with Love! 
I think Mom was motivated by lack of funds, and needing dresses for 3 of us..holidays were the primary focus. Mom and Dad purchased the new patent leather shoes, gloves, flower headbands and sometimes new crinolines, a slip that made your full skirt stand out. Watch out when you sit down, though...(see Jan in photo).  That left only the most expensive part...the dress...for Mom to make.  Sometimes, we had matching or coordinating coats.  When a new trend came along, like the "wrap around" skirt, we lucked out. We could have a new skirt or two pretty quickly and at a fraction of the cost of the store bought variety. It was very cool to have a new skirt within 24 hours and be a style setter at school!   Of course, with Dad working at dry goods stores, we had access to fabric, patterns and notions.  Dad's offer to keep us supplied with the "goods" was all that was needed to have his 3, and eventually 4 daughters making two sewing machines hum.

Janet Johnson, Carrie Semp, Bianca Banash, Janet Smith and Sue Smith
in the "homemade" Bridesmaid dresses...April 17, 1971
1967 J-Hop Romeo High School
 I never had a "store bought" prom or homecoming dress and we made my wedding gown and all the bridesmaids dresses, which were gifts from Mike and I for standing up in our wedding. My sewing talents were never used for a daughter...but my three sons all had handmade clothes at one time or another.  It didn't last very long, but the baby sleepers turned into coveralls, tee shirts, suits and pajamas....and suddenly, they were too "grown up" for anything Mom was making them.
I still love to sew, but as times change, there isn't much apparel sewing going on.  "Grandma Pam" gets a few opportunities to sew for the grandchildren and mend for the grownup kids, but most of the projects are now quilting or home decor items.  I will always be glad that I was able to learn to sew.  I was thrilled to receive my first sewing machine as a gift from Grandma Vanoff as a Christmas present in first Christmas as a Semp.  It is a Kenmore and I'm still using it today, and have no plans to ever replace it.  I have added a couple more...a Singer serger, a vintage Singer 1951 variety in a cabinet (perfect for in front of the window while working on quilting projects), another vintage Singer in a beautiful, dome shaped wooden carrying case, and a very special Singer Featherweight that works well for transporting to classes.  I hope I can pass the love for sewing on to someone in our family.  Until then, I just continue to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the "sport"and also the satisfaction of "making it myself."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Week 11 of 2016 - Night Owl or Lark - Your Internal Clock

I'm sure there are exceptions to each individuals sleep patterns, but when you look at what's normal for  yourself, it's pretty easy to figure out which group you belong to.  For me, I don't like getting up and feeling I have wasted a morning.  Suddenly, it's noon and the day is half gone! I'm more satisfied with having a good portion of my "to do" list accomplished by noon.

 While some people enjoy the early mornings of summer, birds singing, beautiful sunrises and summer breezes that feel like velvet, I'm even happy with the dark, quiet mornings of winter.  When my schedule forced me to walk early in the day....working 10-12 hour retail days...there was solitude in the early, dark mornings.  Armed with a reflective vest and warm clothing, it was interesting to see who was moving around between 5-7am.  Some make the coffee klatch a priority.  In our little community, we have a fabulous community building.  In the basement is a meeting room with a pool table, card tables, kitchenette and lots of "larks"...some of the card games start at 5am!  While I am happy to be up and "at 'em", cards at 5am has no appeal for me.  Others are walking, like me, or running, biking and making the last minute dash to work. I would see a stready stream of cars just before 6am and 7am, with workers barely making it to the time clock, there are others that can be seen at the very same time every morning on their way to somewhere...the laundry truck heading west, the county trucks out on stormy mornings, the early morning pickups pulling boats for the sunrise fishing expedition or the 6:40am school buses beginning their routes.

So, I would guess the ratio of Larks to Night Owls is probably 50/50...don't we all know some of both?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Week 12 of 2016 - Easter, Sewing and How It All Began...

It is 1962 and my Dad was the manager for a department store in Rochester called Mitzelfeld's.   It was owned by William (Bill) Mitzelfeld.  My Dad was responsible for many things at the store. It was not unusual for him to spend Sunday afternoon at a card table in the family room with a yellow legal pad, planning what needed to be done at the store the next week.  
Stock Photo saved from C&G Newspapers

One of his responsibilities was the store windows and displays.   In the 1960's, most businesses had huge front windows where they proudly displayed all their finest new inventory, creatively arranged in the windows to entice customers into the store to see what else they might have to offer.  A store's front windows might be the only advertising that the business could afford so a business used this space wisely. My Dad loved this part of his job and he was really good at it.  He took a great deal of pride in his work.  The Mitzelfeld's had installed black and white striped awnings over the front windows to protect the merchandise from fading as the sun's rays brightly filtered through the glass on sunny day.  In the winter, it was most often too gray and the sun too low in the sky to effect the displays. As spring approached, the sun rose higher in the sky each day, it would once again become a concern for my Dad. So Dad would take a drive to work to open the awnings to protect the merchandise in the windows.

 Sidewalk Sales at Mitzelfeld's 1967 - looking south -  note the lowered awnings.

Sidewalk Sales at Mitzelfeld's in 1967 looking north

In the weeks just before Easter in 1962, one bright sunny Sunday afternoon, Dad bundled up the the three oldest girls and off to Rochester we went to open the awnings.  While we were at the store, Dad instructed us to go look at a specific rack of dresses and pick one dress out for Easter.  He would buy them for us the next day when he came to work.  Mom usually made our dresses for Easter but with the new baby, Mark and now four girls to make dresses for, she just did not have the time this year. This was likely the first time that I got to pick out something for myself...and my last, for that matter, at least for a while.  As Pam and Sue were looking at "the rack" of dresses, I drifted to a different rack. And  as you have probably guess, I found a dress that I absolutely loved. I am excited beyond measure, I have the dress in hand and hurry off to show Dad the most beautiful dress in the world.

"I want this one, Dad! It is so beautiful, it is my favorite!", I proclaim to him as he reenters the store after lowering the awnings

"Did you get it off the rack I told you to get it from?"  he asked with a look of doubt in his eye.

"I think so.." I said

He gave me the look and said,  "Go put it back and find one off the rack that your sisters are looking at"

"BUT DAD!"  I cried "I have to have this dress!"

I carried on for the next ten or fifteen minutes about the dress I wanted and eventually, someone else picked out a dress for me. I cried and pouted the whole trip home. I just could not understand why I could not have that dress.  As we pulled into the driveway and Dad put the car in park, he turned and looked at me sternly as I sat in the back seat.

 " Janet, I just can not afford to buy you a dress that costs that much.  If I buy you one then I have to buy your sister's one so that means four dresses and I just do not have the money for it.  I can afford to buy you dresses from the other rack. I am sorry.", he said.

 ( This is the first and only time in my life that I remember my Dad ever talking about what we could or could not afford.)

"I want you to sit down with your Mother and learn how to sew.  If you do that, you will be able to make a dress that pretty for yourself!"  He told me.

"And I will buy you the fabric." He  added  "... all the fabric, that you want..."  And he did until the day he died...34 years later.

I did sit down with Mom and learn to sew.  So did all of my sisters.  Before he knew it he was scrambling to find sewing machines so we would stop fighting over whose turn it was to sew on Mom's machine...It was a good thing that the boys came along when they did because Mom no longer had much time to sew.  We would not let her anyway.  Mom's machine and Grandma Smith's machine were being used almost constantly by three teenagers. Sharon learned to sew about the time that the second sewing machine showed up so then four of us shared two machines.

I sew every week on something or another...when I do, I fondly think of my Dad for encouraging me to learn to sew and of my Mom for patiently teaching me! 

Love you Dad and Mom. Happy Easter...


Monday, March 14, 2016

Week 11 of 2016 - Early Bird or Night Owl - Your Internal Clock

Are you an early riser or a night owl ?

Better late than never.... ...Geoffery Chaucer - 1386
Early Bird catches the worm... John Ray - 1670
4AM ...If I am ever up that early, its because I'm up that late.... Janet Smith - 2016
Early to bed, early to rise, make a man happy, healthy and wise.... Benjamin Franklin - 1735

I am a night owl better known as an “owl” by researchers. A morning person or early bird is known as a “lark”. With a little research today, I have found that they indeed believe that “our personal biological clocks are already wound at birth. Genetics establishes a persons “chronotype” which is what determines when your body is awake, when you perform at your best and when you need to sleep.

I am sure that you have probably noticed the “chronotypes” of your family members and how these habits translate into their daytime and nighttime habits. My Mom was a owl. She would always stayed up to watch Johnny Carson. She was the one who was up when I came home at 5 minutes passed eleven when my curfew was at eleven. She was the free spirit. Her schedule was mandated by her 6 children. When we were kids, Dad (the “lark” of our family) would get up early on Sunday and take the 4 oldest girls to Sunday school. Since we only had one car, a Ford Falcon station wagon, he would return to get Mom and the boys. Invariably Mom would have one more thing to do or get one more thing before heading out the door for church. We always sat in the back of the church so she could slip into the pew as she arrived in the 3rd or 4th verse of the first hymn.

Dad on the other hand was precise, on time and had a busy schedule. He was always ready and early for work whether he was working for Bill Mitzelfield or when he was his own boss. He open the doors of the store at 9:00 and locked the door after the last customer at closing time. When he ran the Ben Franklin in Imlay City, he would come home for lunch and as Mom scurried around to make him a sandwich, he would take a 20 minute cat nap. Precisely 20 minutes later, he would be awake eating his sandwich feeling refreshed and alert. I was always amazed. In the evening after dinner, if he had no meetings, he would find an odd job to do to keep himself busy. If he sat in the Lazyboy too long he would be out for the night.
When I was a teenager, I preferred to do my homework late. Often I worked after school at the store for Dad. In the evening, I wanted to be with my friends or my boy friend. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning with my alarm blaring, fully dressed in yesterdays clothes and realize I had fallen asleep again while studying. I hated alarm clocks and still do!

Years later as a new young mother, I often had my sewing machine running until the wee hours of the morning making baby clothes for my sons. Later when I decided it was time to go to work, I went to school to become a Computer Technician. Sounded like a good idea to me. You worked when things were broken. No kidding...The bad thing was the training program was from 5 AM until Noon in Southfield. It was tough making this Owl go to bed at the same time as my kids in order to get up at 3:45 AM to drive to Southfield. I thought I could do it because the course was only 9 months long. I completed it in 6 months...thinking maybe I could get thru it sooner only to find out I had to be in school a precise number of hours, 1440 hours in order to get my certificate. So I took every additional course that were available and I tutored other students so I got my hours in!

Early in my career, it really was “you only worked when a piece of equipment was broken”. I was amazed by that. You did your preventative maintenance and you completed your service calls and then it was up to you to find something to do. One day I wandered into my bosses office, and told him (Willard Zerbe) that I was bored...He shock his head and said, “ I tell employees once, go find something to do or I'll make some work for you... “ so I went to the mall and never felt guilty after that.

1986 Printer Class in Louisville, Colorado
As a FE or Field Service Engineer for StorageTek, there were no time clock. You never had a place that you HAD to be at a certain time. I visited my account after I got my kids to school, usually around 8:30 or 9 AM. I planned my work day, I knew what needed to be done and I did it. Some days you worked all day, some days you worked into the night, some days you were done by noon and at the pool or the mall!

STK Field Service Organization in Phoenix, Arizona
When my primary account was Uhaul Corporation in Phoenix in the early 1980's my best friend, Ivy Grabowski, lived about 2 miles away in an apartment complex. We would go there everyday for lunch. We would put on our bathing suits and bake in the sun by the pool. If needed , we would go back to work. One day the Operations manager at Uhaul, Ted Demskey, asked me what I did for lunch each day. I thought, that is an odd question but I evaded it, thinking I was pretty smart. Then he went on to say, “well, Jan you come in to work in the morning with your hair done and your make up on and after lunch you come back with no makeup and wet hair so I just wondered...” Ops I got caught so after that I tried to do a little less swimming not that I was doing anything wrong as far as my boss was concerned. …but I had not thought about how it must have looked to my customers.
StorageTek Booth at the 1986 Technical Conference in Las Vegas

This job fit nicely with my Owl personality. On a regular basis I would have to take an “on call” weekly shift. This would mean the possibility of working second shift hours and third shift hours when needed which I usually found easy to do. When I was “on call”, if I got a call after I had already fallen asleep, it was sometimes hard to get me fully awake. I always told the dispatchers that called me, that I would call them back from the other room so as not to wake my husband. Most often I did called them right back. There were a few occasions that I returned to sleep not knowing that I had answered the phone. Eventually the dispatchers could tell when I was having trouble getting awake and would talk to me for a few minutes to wake me up.  This process worked pretty well because by the time I went to the other room and called them back, I was awake enough to take down any information I needed accurately and out the door I went.
Jan Tietz/Smith striking a pose and the Tech Convention in Vegas
Throughout my career with all of my employers in the computer industry, I never punch a time clock. I got to work when I got there and I left work when my day was done usually 8 or 9 hours later. In the later years, I could log back into work from home and work if needed. I could on occasion work the whole day from home if needed. My “on call” became support work that I could usually do remotely from home if it was after hours. While the computer systems that I supported were very reliable, on occasion in the middle of the night a process or system would fail and I had to make sure that it was fixed and running the next morning when day shift started at the manufacturing plant in Genoa.

Today as a retiree, I am still an Owl. My husband is the Lark. He naps on and off throughout the evening and about 11 PM goes off to bed after he turns down the heat. He says, “see you in a couple of hours...” I say, “No, I'll be right along...” And before I know it, it has been a couple of hours. He says that if he did not turn down the heat, I would stay up all night and he is probably right...When I get cool then I go upstairs looking for a warm bed.

So what are you, an Owl or a Lark?



Monday, March 7, 2016

Week 10 - Family Birthdays

My parents did a pretty good job with our birthdays...No parties like the parents of today. ...Our parties were always a family affairs....our family....  If they happen to coincide with a holiday then the Grandparents were likely involved but mostly it was just our family. I remember one year we had  a breakfast birthday for Mom in the morning in her bed!  That was fun.  The only reason I can think of why we would have done that is it must have been a Friday and Dad knew he would be working late so we had a breakfast Birthday party...

Mom's 40th Birthday

All these years later I have become the keeper of the family photos.  I have scanned them in and we all have copies of them but I have the originals. I learned something from these photos that I did not remember from my childhood...The Birthday boy or girl did not get to blow out their own candles... Most of us helped!  In almost every photo of a birthday gathering,  WE were blowing out the candles...Isn't that funny and I never realized it.

Looks like Pam's 13th Birthday
 On your birthday, the birthday person did not have to do dishes...for the girls this was kinda a big thing.  No fighting with your sister over who gets to wash or has to rinse or dry.   No getting wet because your sister got mad and splashed you on purpose and them swore to Mom it was a mistake..."really Mom it was" !  No one to push you off the stool that you had to stand on to reach into the sink if you were the washer or to the counter if you were the dryer.  You just sit back at the table and watch as the other two or three hashed it out.  Gee, maybe I'll have another piece of cake to dirty just one more plate and fork so they will have ONE more dish to wash...a cup of milk maybe...By then they are yelling to Mom..."Jan's making more dishes for us to wash!"  The boys did not do dishes so no big deal for them...Wonder if they did not have to take out the trash or something else...I honestly don't remember.  This is where it would be really nice if Matt or Mark would chime in on these Memories.....

Jan's Birthday 1964 - Ballerina Candle holders
You got to pick what you  wanted Mom to make for dinner.  With six kids, you did not "go out" for dinner ever....Now that I am older, I wonder who really won here...Mom or the Birthday person...Now that I know how hard it is to come up with something for dinner each day and a variety at that, I am thinking that Mom was the winner almost every month we had a birthday so that was one meal that she did not have to plan!!!

Oh the cake, we got to pick the kind of cake that we wanted....I picked German Chocolate for quite a number of years and I got German Chocolate for the rest of my life.....even after it wasn't my favorite any more... This is where I would LOVE Sharon to pipe up and talk about her Birthday cakes!!

Sharon's 7th Birthday
 When we were little she did buy those little hard sugar decorations to put on our cakes.  They usually spelled Happy Birthday and if you were lucky maybe your first name.  I remember as a little kid trying to bite into those decorations and nearly broke a tooth. They did not even taste good...  Oh and then there were the candle holder candies ones too....You would put them on the cake and put the candle in it to help it stand up.  It was quite and operation to get all the candles standing and then get them lite with a whole table of people anguish to blow them out.  Sometimes one of us was a little too eager and she would have to lite them all again because someone caused a false start! ..Mom did make good Birthday cakes...they came out of the box and so did the frosting...Just like everyone else did in the 1960's and 1970's...

Matt's 3rd Birthday
 Eventually, Mom just stuck the candles in the frosting and lite them as quick as she could...Then it was her job to take the candles out after we blew them out.  She would carefully lick all the frosting off the candles  as we not so patiently waited for our cake and ice cream. Some times in an effort to expedite this process, we would help take out the candles and lick the frosting for her...I think I got reprimanded a time or two for it.  We have pictures of her licking the ice cream scoop too...

I just realized that we did an awful lot of Birthday celebrations at night when were were already for bed!  Birthdays!!!  They are the best.  Give a family an excuse to celebrate one persons uniqueness. Even today we all spend a great deal of thought and time searching for that perfect card or special small gift....and we all do it in our own unique way!

Happy Birthday Sharon!!!

Hope you enjoy,